Partition Hard Drive For Mac and Windows, In 6 Easy Steps

By Simon Irons / September 6, 2019
Partition Hard Drive For Mac And Windows Title Image

You and your colleagues.

Or you and your kids need to share some files.

Documents, music, photos or videos and it would be so much easier if they were in the one place.

Except you have a Mac and they have Windows PCs.

Will getting a large enough external hard drive solve your problem? Can you partition a hard drive for Mac and windows? Create areas that the Mac and PC can share and keep your work stuff separate from the kids stuff.

The answer to your question is yes.

And by the end of this post you’ll see how easy it is to do. In 6 easy steps.

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How to Partition an External Hard Drive For Mac and Windows

Your faithful Mac creates the partitions on your external hard drive.

But before we jump straight in, there are some things you need to have in place before you begin.

Necessary Preparation Before you Start

a. When you’re creating a partition for Mac and Windows to share, you need your external hard drive formatted as a Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

This file system is also known as HFS+. Don’t let this technical sounding jargon worry you.

It’s simply a disk layout that a Mac computer uses.

You can buy an external hard drive already formatted as HSF+ or take a few minutes and make it that way yourself.

You can find out how.

Take a look at my post “External Hard Drive For Mac and PC with Data Interchangeable” by clicking on the link.

And follow the short steps to creating a Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system. It’s as easy as pie and when you’re done, head back here.

b. Sounds obvious but I am going to say it anyway. Choose an external hard drive large enough to hold the things you want to share.

How do you decide what’s large enough?

Think about the stuff you plan to share with the kids.

Take a look at the folders both on your Mac and on the Windows PCs. What size are they?

Add them up and you’ll find out how much room you need. Then add room for growth.

How much room will you need on the drive for the stuff you share with your colleagues? You know, the stuff you don’t want to share with the kids.

Add that to the total.

Finally add a bit of head room for the creation of the partitions. Your Mac writes the partitions and it needs space to do that. Adding 5-10% to your total will be enough.

c. Decide how many partitions you want on your external hard drive. And how large you’d like each partition.

Creating the Partition for Mac and Windows

Bought your drive? Is it formatted to HFS+? Power up your Mac, and plug it in.

You should see the drive on your desktop. It looks like this icon.

External Drive Icon On Desktop

External Drive Icon On Desktop

1. You’ll be using a piece of software called Disk Utility

Software that is part of your Mac’s operating system.

The software can also format your external hard drive. And you would have used it if you followed my “External Hard Drive For Mac and PC with Data Interchangeable” document.

If you bought a drive that is already HFS+ formatted I’ll tell you how to find Disk Utility.

Disk Utility lives in the Utilities folder. You can find that folder within the Application Folder.

Applications Folder In Dock

Applications Folder In Dock

Click on the Application folder, then click on the Utilities folder.

Utilities In Application Folder

Utilities In Application Folder

There you’ll find Disk Utility.

Disk Utility In Utilities Folder

Disk Utility In Utilities Folder

Double click on Disk Utility to start it up.

Or you can look for it using the spotlight search on your Mac.

Spotlight Search Symbol

Spotlight Search Symbol

It will be at the top of your main screen.

Disk Utility In Spotlight Search

Disk Utility In Spotlight Search

2. Pick the external hard drive you’re going to partition for Mac and Windows

Disk Utility Select External Hard Drive

Disk Utility Select External Hard Drive

3. To Partition the External Hard Drive for Mac and Windows PC

Look across the top of the Disk Utility screen and you’ll see a button labeled ‘Partition’.

You click on that.

Select Partition on Utility Screen

Select Partition on Utility Screen

Now you’ll see a view of your entire external hard drive shown by a large circle.

First Partition Screen

First Partition Screen

Right now your disk is like one partition – a partition that consists of your whole external hard drive.

Look toward the bottom of the partition screen and you will see a + button.

Partition Plus Sign on Screen

Partition Plus Sign on Screen

That button is important because you use it to create your extra partitions.

Each of your clicks on this button increases the number of partitions. The minus button decreases the number of partitions.

Let’s talk some examples.

A simple setup is where you want to separate the external hard drive into two parts. One partition for you to use with your work pals. And the other for the kids videos and games stuff.

You click the plus sign once to create another partition. Then you’ll have two partitions.

But if you wanted more say three partitions.

One for just for you and your Mac.

One for your Mac and your work buddies PCs to share.

One for your Mac and the kids to share.

You would click on the plus sign twice to create two more partitions. You’ll then have three in total. The one you started with and two more.

4. Choosing a File System for your Partition

The step after you have told your Mac how many partitions you want is to say how you want each partition formatted.

A partition to used for a Mac only is formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system (also known as HFS+)

A partition used for both Mac and Windows you format as an ExFAT file system.

5. Select and Give each Partition a Name

You do this one partition at a time.

Click on the partition – The segment of the disk you want to change.

Give the partition a name. You’ll find it useful to type in a name that makes sense to you. And makes it easy for you to know what that partition is for.

You type the name in where you see the arrow in the picture below.

Give Partition A Name And Type

Give Your Partition A Name And Type

You select the file system format just underneath the name. For a partition used by Mac and a PC you choose ExFAT.

Choose ExFAT where I have circled in the picture above.

Under format is a place where you can set the partition size.

Set The Partition Size

Set The Partition Size

Let’s say you have a 2TB sized external hard drive. And you want 2, 1 TB partitions. You type the number 1 where the first arrow points in the picture above.

Then select TB. You do this where the second arrow points.

When there are only two partitions the rest of the space goes to the second partition.

You’ll have 2 partitions each of them 1 TB in size.

If you have more than two partitions

Then you click on the next partition segment you want to change and set the size.

As you change each partition in turn, you’ll see the size of each slice of the external hard drive change.

6. Click Apply when You’re Happy

Click Partition Apply

Click Apply to start creating your Partitions

It’s as easy as that.

Wait a few minutes for your Mac to do its work and you’re all done.

The external hard drive is set partitioned for Mac and PC and ready for you to use.

Your Mac shows all the partitions as separate drive icons on your desktop screen. And you can copy the files you want across.

Not sure how to use an external hard drive? Take a look at my article on how to connect an external hard drive. Jump down to the section on how to use an external hard drive to find out.

What happens when you plug the external hard drive into your colleagues or kids Windows PCs?

You point the PCs to the relevant ExFAT partitions. The names you gave them will make each partition easy to spot.

And they can see the files you copied onto the drive. They can use the drive. And they can put their own files onto their partition of the external hard drive.

Frequently Asked Questions.

1. Why is the shared Partition for Mac and Windows Created as ExFAT?

Because both PCs and Macs can read and write to external hard drives set up as ExFAT file systems. ExFAT is compatible with Mac and Windows.

And you can share word documents, PDFs, videos and photos.

2. What can’t a PC and a Mac Share?

No Applications or Program files.

PC applications are designed for and need to run on a Windows PC.

Your Mac is the same. A Mac program is designed to run on a Mac and won’t run on a PC.

The files these programs create can be shared. As long as there is a program running on the Mac and a similar one on the PC that can read those files.

Final Words

I hope you loved my article “Partition Hard Drive for Mac and Windows, In 6 Easy Steps”. And found the steps straight forward and truly easy to do.